‘Politicians are educators too.’ President Joseph Aoun addresses gathering of legislative leaders from across US

Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern, gives remarks during the State Legislative Leadership Foundation event held in East Village, 17th Floor Conference Space. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun had a message for state lawmakers from across the U.S. assembled this week on the university’s Boston campus for a State Legislative Leadership Foundation conference.

“Politicians are educators, too,” Aoun told the group. “Whether you know it or not, whether you see it like that or not, you are talking to your constituencies, you are trying to understand the world, and you are trying to have an impact on the world.”

Aoun’s comments came in the middle of Friday’s day-long conference, which focused on public safety and gun violence in the U.S. The foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization “dedicated to professional development for our nation’s current and future state legislative leaders.”

Robert DeLeo, former Massachusetts House speaker and University Fellow for Public Life at Northeastern was instrumental in securing Northeastern as the venue for the private conference of lawmakers. Those in attendance Friday include speakers and senate presidents from state legislatures on both sides of the aisle, from a handful of states across the country. 

This week’s conference was timely and opportune in a couple of ways. It helped spotlight Northeastern’s rising profile as one of the nation’s most sought-after private universities, while also giving Northeastern criminologists the floor to explore the different dimensions of gun violence in America today, DeLeo said.

Legislative leaders were already aware of Northeastern as a growing global presence, DeLeo says. It was fitting, given the university’s leadership and expertise in the area of gun violence, that lawmakers gathered in Boston, he said. 

“When I was the Speaker of the House … one of the major pieces of legislation we had passed here in Massachusetts was that relative to gun safety, a law that is considered to be one of the strongest and best in the country,” DeLeo said. “And one of the people I had worked with on that was [Northeastern] Professor [Jack] McDevitt.”

McDevitt, who recently retired after 45 years of teaching at Northeastern, and James Alan Fox, a leading expert on mass murder, both spoke Friday. 

Aoun praised the group of lawmakers for coming together to have a dialogue on some of the “major issues in the nation” and for “being role models to our students.”

“The fact that we’re having a bipartisan meeting such as this one is very important to us in higher education, because I can tell you our students are fed up,” Aoun said. “They’re fed up with what they are seeing; they’re fed up with this partisan politics that is going nowhere.” 

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